For 2nd year in a row, Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra in Puri to be held without devotees
For the second year in a row, the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his siblings will be held in Puri next month without the presence of any devotees due to Covid-19 fears.
Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Jena on Thursday said the Rath Yatra will be held on July 11 in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court last year. After refusing to allow it, the apex court last year had permitted the Rath Yatra to happen on the condition that there is no public attendance and all entry points into Puri will remain closed. It also said each of the 3 chariots, would be pulled by not more than 500 people who test negative for coronavirus.
“Pulling of chariots maybe performed by Sevayats, police personnel and any other officials permitted by the SJTA. Only temple servitors who have either been fully vaccinated or have RT-PCR negative reports from 48 hours prior to the event will be allowed to carry out the Rath Yatra rituals. There would be sufficient interval between pulling of two chariots. Each Rath would be pulled by not more than 500 people and social distancing be maintained as far as practicable,” said Jena.
Considered as part and parcel of the social, religious and cultural ethos of the people of Odisha, Rath Yatra is one of the main festivals of Odisha that commemorates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath and his siblings from the 12th century Jagannath Temple to their aunt’s abode in Gundicha Temple, 2.5 km away in Puri town. During Rath Yatra, a million devotees converge in Puri town believing that they would attain salvation by touching the ropes attached to the chariots. After staying in Gundicha Temple for 9 days, the three deities come back to Jagannath Temple on the 10th day in a return journey called “Bahuda Yatra”.
Chief administrator of Sri Jagannath Temple Administration, Dr Krishan Kumar said 88 people including 40 carpenters, 31 bhoi servitors, 13 blacksmiths and four temple officials are working since Akshaya Tritiya (May 15) to make the 3 chariots. The workers engaged in creating the chariots are doing their work wearing N95 masks and have been asked to sanitise their hands before starting work. They have been accommodated at Gundicha Bhakta Nivas in isolation till the three chariots are ready.
This year, no Rath Yatra would be allowed in all other parts of the state including Koraput, Baripada, Kendrapara and Nilagiri in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rituals relating to Rath Yatra may be performed in temple premises.
Jena said curfew will be imposed in Puri town by the district administration during Rath Yatra to restrict entry of outsiders. However, essential services including ambulances, medical shops and water supply will be allowed. People requiring emergency travel to and from Puri will also be permitted by the local administration. Trains, buses and other private vehicles will also not be allowed to enter Puri Town during the period.
The information and public relations department will make arrangements for live telecast of important events like Snana Yatra, Gundicha Yatra, Bahuda, Suna Besha and Niladri Bije and share the common feed to media, he added.